Whilst the recent increases in job creation are a good sign for the economy, for businesses they carry two challenges for successful workforce planning - firstly how to acquire the new skills that they need, and secondly to keep the people they already have. Some of the talent that companies acquire will undoubtedly be someone else's talent and it's a given that some of your people will also be thinking of new challenges.
The writing is on the wall. Recent research tells us that:
- Only a third of UK employees say they are actively engaged at work
- 78% of HR leaders see employee retention as a major issue
- 84% of employees have experienced a change event at work, for half of them it was a major event
- 68% of EMEA employees intend to look for a job with a different organisation
- Only 38% of EMEA employees have had a career development discussion with their employers in the last year
- 91% of UK managers see career development as the employee's responsibility, not HR or line management
There are certain recurring themes here. There are low levels of employee engagement, in part due to unsettled employees experiencing major events (e.g. redundancy programmes, merger or acquisition, crisis, leadership changes) and not having the career development discussions they need. Managers are worried about losing staff, but at the same time see career development as the employee's responsibility so can't be too surprised if that 'development' takes them to a new company. The HR team meanwhile has to plan amidst this backdrop of uncertainty, whilst also juggling skill shortages.
It would be a big plus to know when your people are thinking about leaving. Traditionally there have been tell-tale signs - sudden sickness, leave at short notice, private phone chats with the door closed, sudden smartening of business dress, late starts and early finishes - but modern job hunting takes place through digital, mobile and social channels, with interviews happening at very different times, so the modern manager needs to be more adept at spotting the signs.
Here are 5 signs you should be looking out for:
1. Reaction to a major change event
The research referenced earlier lists a number of work 'events' that may have an impact on an employee's commitment. Certainly the major ones, involving disruption, redundancy or change of company direction, can alert someone to the fact that it may be time to move on so it's important to have open communication with employees when these events happen in order to gauge their reaction and deal with their concerns. We know from personal relationships that rifts can occur when there isn't open dialogue during times of stress, so you should be aware of someone who is bottling up their feelings about change. As US business professor Gary Hamel often says, people aren't generally against change, but are against change that's imposed on them without any input from them.
2. Lack of interest in the future
People who are looking at other career options often lose interest in the future plans of the business they are working for. Do you have someone who is ducking out of new assignments or avoiding a long-term commitment to the business? Maybe you have had a career development discussion with them and they seemed vague about the future, or shared plans on up-coming projects that they were disinclined to get involved with? A lack of long-term interest is often a giveaway, but you need to be having the discussions. If more than 60% of businesses are avoiding career discussions then they may not pick this up.
3. Becoming unsociable
Is there an employee who is usually at the hub of the team or company's social activities but now seems to duck out of social arrangements or nights out? A strong indication of disenchantment is often when someone who is part of the business' social fabric - always at the events, plays for company sports teams, celebrates everyone's birthdays - seems to be giving things a miss and opting to spend less time with colleagues or on activities that help team bonding and engagement. It could be a sign that they have other things going on in their lives that need some attention (in which case they might welcome a chat with someone prepared to listen) but is also often a flag that they cease to feel part of the team.
4. Internal network is leaving
Everyone has an internal network in their job. Colleagues, managers, co-workers from other departments or offices who help support what the individual is doing, are all part of this network and when some of them leave, or become disillusioned with the company, it can have a knock-on effect. It's a form of change that happens to them, their internal ecosystem is destabilised and whether this leads to uncomfortable feelings or a general sense of demotivation, a manager needs to be attuned to how general shifts in the make-up of the organisation are impacting individuals.
5. Their skills are in demand
As I mentioned earlier, quite a lot of hiring will be of other people's talent and you may have employees who are being approached or headhunted on a regular basis. Even the most loyal employee will begin to feel destabilised if they are hearing about new and different opportunities elsewhere, particularly if they have foregone pay increases or career development opportunities. It's key that managers and directors keep abreast of the areas of the market going through a hiring boom, or experiencing skills shortages or mismatches - if you've got a performer with those attributes then they are likely to be in demand.
There's no surefire way keep on top of all the people in your business who may be thinking of a career move. A lot will depend on how valued they feel, how challenging the work is, whether they are still aligned with the values of the business, and the extent to which you are helping their career development. If you're falling short in any of those areas then you need to be mindful of the signs that your employees may need wooing again.